British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused by his former chief aide of failing to properly respond to the coronavirus outbreak because he thought people dying from it were “essentially all over 80.”
In his first media interview to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg since he was sacked by Johnson, former aide Dominic Cummings said the prime minister had been reluctant to tighten coronavirus restrictions last autumn amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, and that he had wanted to let Covid “wash through the country” rather than wreck the economy.
The BBC said Cummings had shared a Whatsapp message he received from the Prime Minister on 15 October, where he described himself as “slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities” whose median age was over 80, allegedly writing: “That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer.”
It is not the first time the former aid, who caused a public outcry for breaking lockdown rules during the first wave of the pandemic, attacks the government for its handling of the crisis. While answering questions from MPs earlier this year, Cummings had claimed that thousands of people have died needlessly due to government delays and mistakes.
In the interview, which will be broadcast in full on Tuesday night, Cummings says Johnson also allegedly downplayed the impact on the state-funded health service.
“I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.”
Cummings described Johnson’s attitude at the time as: “This is terrible but the people dying are essentially all over 80 and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80.”
The British prime minister has faced serious criticism for his handling of the virus, with UK death figures soaring to among the worst in Europe before the vaccine rollout.
On Monday Johnson controversially opted to go ahead with relaxation of almost all virus restrictions in England despite cases growing steeply in recent weeks.
The prime minister repeatedly condemned the first lockdown from March 2020 as a “disaster,” Cummings said.
The former adviser also claimed that at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, he had to persuade Johnson not to continue meeting Queen Elizabeth II in person every week.
He claimed that Johnson said on March 18: “Sod this. I’m going to go and see her”.
The prime minister changed his mind after Cummings told him that risking the life of the monarch, then aged 94, was “completely insane,” the aide alleged.
Downing Street denied this took place, while Buckingham Palace declined to comment, the BBC reported.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the prime minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
“The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.”
The UK lifted most virus restrictions over the summer of 2020 including reopening non-essential shops and theatres and encouraged people to “eat out to help out” at restaurants.
A new lockdown entered into force in October as cases and hospitalisations once again soared.
Cummings said that MPs should insist on an inquiry.
“Many many people will say under oath to the public inquiry – if that ever happens – what I said today,” he said.